The Glory of Christ

Feb 27, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

“It is by beholding the glory of Christ by faith that we are spiritually edified and built up in this world, for as we behold his glory, the life and power of faith grow stronger and stronger. It is by faith that we grow to love Christ. So if we desire strong faith and powerful love, which give us rest, peace and satisfaction, we must seek them diligently beholding the glory of Christ by faith. In this duty I desire to live and to die.

On Christ’s glory I would fix all my thoughts and desires, and the more I see of the glory of Christ, the more the painted beauties of this world will wither in my eyes and I will be more and more crucified to this world. It will become to me like something dead and putrid, impossible for me to enjoy.”

– John Owen, The Glory of Christ

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To Be a Letter of Christ

Feb 27, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

[A]nd you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
– 2 Corinthians 3:3

I love that. “Show that you are a letter of Christ.” Like walking, breathing epistles — emissaries under Christ’s Lordship, ambassadors for Christ’s kingdom — we testify with our very lives to the good news of Jesus. This isn’t just a relaying of information; it is a subsisting on revelation. It’s carrying the Spirit-illumined Word of God in our blood, in our marrow.

They are not just idle words for you — they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.
– Deuteronomy 32:47

I am in constant need of repenting of using God’s Word and returning to being used by it. I try too often to live by bread alone.

In my heart of hearts, however, I want to stop using Jesus, appropriating Scripture, and doing church and begin trusting Jesus, living Scripture, and being the Church.
I want to be a letter of Christ.

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Pastoral Pitfalls

Feb 26, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

To be sure, the minister of the Gospel is vulnerable to trials and temptations distinct to his calling:

jealousy (“Why are his gifts more esteemed than mine?”)

bitterness (“Why does the congregation criticize everything I do?”)

fear (“Will they leave the church if I teach particular redemption?”)

depression (“Will this church ever grow?”)

grief (“Why have there been so few conversions?”)

frustration (“Why does the board appear to distrust my motivations?”)

doubt (“Why has God caused such suffering in the life of this family?”)

anxiety (“How will we ever afford to send our children to college?”)

sexual indiscretion (“Why does it seem that my wife is not as responsive to me as other women in the church?”)

despondency (“Why doesn’t the congregation love Jesus with greater fervor?”)

desperation (“Have I rightly discerned my call to ministry?”)

It is imperative, then, for pastors to structure their lives in order to insure that ample time is given in prayer for the protection and promotion of their own spiritual condition.

– Arturo Azurdia, “Reforming the Church Through Prayer.” In Reforming Pastoral Ministry

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The Gospel-Constructed Church

Feb 26, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

So how do we navigate the modern method maze? Is there a compass we can use that will lead us out? Is there a way to rise above the underbrush of synthetic ministry models so that we can get a bird’s-eye view of the way forward?

What these and many other ministry models assume is that method isn’t really all that important to God. “If it brings people to church or helps them feel like they’ve really worshiped on Sunday, it must be a good thing, right?”

When it comes to building a people for His own name and glory, God cares how we go about participating in His redemptive purposes . . . [T]he Gospel itself is God’s constructive power for building the body of Christ. The Word builds the Church. Our power is not in having small groups, or meeting the felt needs of our target audience, or using the right evangelism program, or having funny skits, or providing plenteous parking, or targeting our ministries to postmoderns. Our power is in our unique message — the Gospel (Greek, euangelion) — not in our innovations. As such, our primary method must be to clearly communicate that message as widely as possible. Biblically, that means that we must faithfully preach it (Greek, euangelizo), fearlessly calling for repentance and belief as the only saving responses.

- Mark Dever and Paul Alexander, The Deliberate Church

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George Whitefield’s Gospel Wakefulness

Jan 08, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

“I must bear testimony to my old friend Mr. Charles Wesley, he put a book into my hands, called, The Life of God and the Soul of Man, whereby God showed me, that I must be born again, or be damned. I know the place: it may be superstitious, perhaps, but whenever I go to Oxford, I cannot help running to that place where Jesus Christ first revealed himself to me, and gave me the new birth. [Scougal] says, a man may go to church, say his prayers, receive the sacrament, and yet, my brethren, not be a Christian. How did my heart rise, how did my heart shutter, like a poor man that is afraid to look into his account-books, lest he should find himself a bankrupt: yet shall I burn that book, shall I throw it down, shall I put it by, or shall I search into it? I did, and, holding the book in my hand, thus addressed the God of heaven and earth: Lord, if I am not a Christian, if I am not a real one, for Jesus Christ’s sake, show me what Christianity is, that I may not be damned at last. I read a little further, and the cheat was discovered; oh, says the author, they that know anything of religion know it is a vital union with the son of God, Christ formed in the heart; oh what a way of divine life did break in upon my poor soul. . . . Oh! With what joy—Joy unspeakable—even joy that was full of, and big with glory, was my soul filled.”

– From a 1769 sermon, quoted in Michael A. G. Haykin, editor, The Revived Puritan: The Spirituality of George Whitefield (Joshua Press, 2000) pp. 25-26.

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Congregations Have Wish-Dreams Too

Jan 05, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

When a person becomes alienated from a Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his wish dream that should be shattered by God
– Bonhoeffer, Life Together

That little book is one of the most formative of my life and ministry. And as a pastor, I take the particular section on what Bonhoeffer calls the “wish-dream” very much to heart. I wrote extensively on this subject in The Pastor’s Justification, but the gist is this: The vision for the church that a pastor wants can get in the way of his ministry to the church God has actually given him, and because the wish-dream church is an idol, it prevents us from actually loving our church well.

I think Bonhoeffer’s words are quite sobering and every pastor ought to consider them well. Idolatry is never far from us. From any of us.

Because the laity have wish-dreams too. They can have a wish-dream church experience or community. They can have wish-dream pastors. And these visions quench the Spirit’s working in the real stuff of church and ministry.

When a congregation becomes preoccupied with a vision for the church experience it wants, and then has to actually participate in the messiness of authentic Christian community, the contrast is jarring. Disappointed by the church’s failure to measure up to the image, the complaints begin, the justifications of the complaints take root, along with bitterness and irritation.

When a church person becomes preoccupied with their vision of the ideal pastor, their current pastor’s flaws become more pronounced, more egregious. Scores are kept. Misunderstandings and misinterpretations flourish. Slights are imagined. Strengths seem negligible, weaknesses insurmountable. The criticism begins, then the grapevine chatter, then the anonymous complaints, then the cold shoulders, the specious charges, the spirit of discouragement. All of it gets spiritualized, even as the wish-dreamer’s heart is hardening. The wish-dream keeps churches from loving their pastors and often abets hurting them.

Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
— 1 John 5:21

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Our Sanctuary is No Afterthought

Dec 30, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

A glorious throne set on high from the beginning
is the place of our sanctuary.

— Jeremiah 15:12

As overwhelming as our trials can be, as enveloping as the darkness appears, as deep as the floodwaters grow, we can find solace of heart in knowing our souls are safe in a place bigger, broader, deeper than any distress. Our place of safety is no refugee tent thrown together last second. The Triune Godhead is not scrambling to keep us covered. Our security has been established in the heavens from the very beginning, and it will be standing there, keeping us sound in Christ at the end, and forevermore.

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A Hymn

Dec 16, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

The LORD our God is Lord of Hosts.
He holds all time within his hand.
The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
From all eternity will stand.

From deepest deep, before the start
God has declared the sweetest end
He’s loved and purposed in his heart
The brokenness of man to mend.

Brother Jesus his siblings saves
And conquers sin upon the cross
The death-proof king then slips the grave
And brings redemption to the lost.

Should we alight to heavens’ heights
Or seek the dark of deepest grave,
Each space is filled with splendid light.
Christ meets us there with pow’r to save.

The deadest heart is summoned forth,
And granted grace in second birth.
And as in us it conquers more,
His kingdom comes upon the earth

Exalted Son we wait to see,
Christ’s fame a banner soon unfurled.
As raging waters fill the seas,
His glory then will fill the world.

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The Gospel, Fathoms Deep

Dec 04, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

Ever felt Ephesians 2:1-10? You’ve probably read it, maybe multiple times. But ever felt it? Ever drunk it? Steeped in it? Had it knock you over?

Ephesians 2:1-3 is just brutal. Paul pulls no punches. How bad are we? Really, really, really, ridiculously bad. According to those three short verses we are, apart from Christ, dead. Dead, Paul says. Like, you know, dead-dead.

“But wait,” we think, “I sure didn’t feel dead. I could do stuff.” Oh, you mean like obeying your appetites (v.3), following the way of the world (v.2), and worshiping Satan (v.2)? Good job there.

It doesn’t get worse than this. We are dead, belly-ruled, world-following, devil worshipers. The curse we both suffer and embrace has us hemmed in on all sides. There is no escaping. We are much, much worse than we think we are.

Oh! But verse 4! Two sweet words start the reversal of our will and fate. Two words. Not “be still” but with the same effect — the ten-hutting of a storm. Two words that part the sea, roll back the darkness with violent force, like the jolting, snapping up of window shades. Two little words like wings of a seraph, breaking through our tomb with a bright ray of light and lifting us up and through the spiritual aether, seating us in the heavenlies (v.6).

“But God.”

Two words: the crash cart, the smelling salts, the sweet manna, the dagger in the devil’s neckbone.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ . . .

You feel that? Not if you didn’t feel verses one through three, you didn’t. “Til sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet,” Thomas Watson tells us.

The curse is four fathoms deep and un-swim-uppable. But “but God” signals the divine retrieval, our Spiritual surfacing, our deliverance. “But God” barrels in, carrying us out in two strong arms. “But God” heralds the arrival of God’s glory, the unsearchable riches of Christ, and in its wake trails the train of all the blessings Christ has purchased for us with himself.

If you understand those two words — “but God” — they will save your soul.
James Montgomery Boice

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OFI Conference, January 15-17

Nov 24, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

Join Daniel Montgomery, Dave Harvey, and myself in Tallahassee, Florida January 15-17 for the Of First Importance Conference.

(OFI) Conference exists to help pastors and ministry leaders consider what it really looks like to prioritize the good news of Jesus in life and ministry.

More info and registration at link above.

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